Sense of smell in smartphones could help disease, infection detection

Belgian researchers are within reach of a new sensory frontier for mobile technology: Smell. Smartphones can already see (cameras), feel (touchscreens and accelerometers), and hear (microphones), and new nano-technology has created sensors small enough to embed in a smartphone to actually replace a human's olfactory senses, according to a story at Economic Times.

Researchers at the Belgian high-tech research firm IMEC (Interuniversity Microelectronics Center), say they're closing in on final technology, and could have something ready for market in just over three years, according to mHealthWatch.

The current market is consumer-focused, offering users the ability to use their smartphones to test for food freshness, or as an informal breathalyzer to detect blood-alcohol levels. Reviewers at iMedicalApps, however, see powerful potential uses in healthcare, such as smelling for infection in a surgical wound, or for diseases with a strong smell indicator, such as bacterial vaginosis.

"As physicians, we often describe what our olfactory system is telling us in our assessment of patient pathology," iMedicalApps bloggers write.

In the more near term--by 2014 or so--the firm plans to debut body area network sensors to track heart rates, blood glucose and other biometrics, according to Roger De Keersmaecker, senior vice president for strategic relations. The company just partnered with India-based tech firm Wipro Technologies to create an initiative called ARISE.

The partnership's first project is a 'health necklace' body monitor that can be worn continuously to transmit biometric data to a smartphone or a hospital monitor, according to the Economic Times.

To learn more:
- read the mHealthWatch story
- check out the iMedicalApps analysis
- get more detail from this blog post
- dig into the Economic Times article